Spying on citizens: It's not just for the NSA anymore

Although everyone suspected that the National Security Agency (NSA) was listening in on conversations, the Edward Snowden leaks rocked the world with the extent of what the agency was able to do.

Unfortunately it has now come out that the surveillance extends to more than just the NSA: According to a report by Ars Technica, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a subdivision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) had been maintaining their own database of phone metadata. Based on an anonymous source, the DEA had been tracking this data from sometime in the 1990s, but closed the program down in 2013.

Information about the program came to light when the DEA identified an Iranian-American man named Shantia Hassanshahi who is charged with violating the United States' trade embargo against Iran. The government was able to link Hassanshahi's Google Voice number with a phone number of an Iranian businessman with the DEA database, and that's how information about this spying came to light. The database is allegedly no longer in use, but it's not a stretch to think that wording is simply code for, "We have a better one now."

Hanni Fakhoury, an EFF attorney, sums the incident up nicely:

The DEA's mandate is of course important but not at the level of national security where as you know there are serious legal questions about the propriety of this collection of phone metadata. And if the DEA has a program like this, it wouldn't surprise me if other agencies do too for other sorts of records the government has claimed it can collect with a subpoena (like bank records).

Hassanshahi's lawyer, Mir Saied Kashani, also stated that he does what the German government is doing: He uses manual typewriters with good old fashioned carbon paper. Maybe that's not so crazy of an idea afterall.

Source: Wall Street Journal (paywall) via Ars Technica | Lock image courtesy of Shutterstock

Report a problem with article
Next Article

Upcoming M9 flagship specs confirmed; HTC smartwatch also set to launch

Previous Article

Windows Mobile 10 to bring Lumia Camera to all devices

39 Comments - Add comment